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On Thursday 30 August 2012, Tax Counsel Stephanie Caredes CTA attended a meeting of the BAS Agents Advisory Group (BASAAG).  Many issues were discussed as put forward by both the ATO and the BASAAG’s external members. The ATO has issued the following key messages from the meeting:

Tips for Agents

1. Tax scams can be reported by calling 13 72 86 FKC 34 (for registered agents) or 1800 060 062 (for clients).

2. An upgrade to the Australian Business Register (ABR) is scheduled for 26 November 2012 and will result in a simplified start up service for businesses.

  • will be able to register for a business name, AUSkey and various tax roles (eg, GST and PAYG withholding) at the same time as their Australian business number (ABN) application
  • will only have to complete their details online once as their information will be pre-filled from one registration to the next
  • who elect not to apply for additional registrations at same time as ABN, will need to do so directly with each agency. Similarly, if they already have an ABN, they will need to apply for these additional registrations directly with each agency.

3.    The BAS agent services guide is effective from July 2012.  Feedback is welcome via email

Tax Practitioner Action Plan Update – Supporting BAS Agents

1. The Tax Practitioner Action Plan

The Tax Practitioner Action Plan was launched in February 2012. In developing the plan, the ATO has consulted with the tax profession at a variety of forums as well as conducting out-of-session discussions with the professional associations. The ATO will continue to engage with the tax profession and link future conversations back to the Tax Practitioner Action plan so there will be many opportunities to track its success and effectiveness.

2. Professional to Professional Service

The professional-to-professional (P2P) service is now available to all tax practitioners. This service can also be used by BAS Agents.

3.    Illness concession - Lodgment obligation, due dates and deferrals: PSLA 2011/15

BASAAG members are advised that in exceptional or unforeseen circumstances, the Commissioner will generally consider it fair and reasonable to grant a deferral where the inability to lodge by the due date is reasonably attributed to exceptional or unforeseen circumstances, such as:

  • natural disasters (flood, fire, drought, cyclones, earthquake and similar events) or other disasters or events that may have, or have had, a significant impact on an entity, region or particular industry or grouping of entities
  • the serious illness or death of the individual or their representative
  • impeded access to records (for example, records seized during a police search or retained as evidence in a court matter)
  • the advanced age or the youth of an individual, the serious illness or death of a family member or a problem due to language difficulties.
If a member believes they have an exceptional circumstance, a Request for additional time to lodge form must be lodged via the BAS Agent Portal.

Increasing electronic interactions

Members have appreciated the opportunity to be consulted on the range of electronic initiatives that will be put in place between 2012 and 2015. The BAS portal upgrade is scheduled for early September 2012. The main features of this release will include:

  • Providing access to the integrated client account running account balance;
  • Providing the ability to update details related to the Client Activity Centre (CAC) role online;
  • Providing access to online reports related to activity statements;
  • Providing an enhanced range of secure messages topics and subjects.
The ATO is committed to improve the way it interacts electronically with Tax Practitioners and BAS agents.

Working in partnership with tax practitioners will allow us to progress the following opportunities:
  • development of promotional information showing the benefits of tax practitioner business practices based on fully electronic transactions and interactions.
  • helping tax practitioners to move their clients, especially in the micro and small business segments, away from cheque payments to the ATO’s preferred payment methods of BPAY and/or credit card.
  • assessing the impact of not sending paper activity statements to portal, Electronic Lodgment Service (ELS) and Standard Business Reporting (SBR) users, and feed this intelligence into the end solution and communication campaign.
  • understanding business practices that support receipt and lodgment of electronic activity statements and use this to develop a best practice model.
GST Governance and Risk Management Guide for Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) 

The GST Governance and Risk Management Guide for Small-to-Medium Enterprises is now available on the ATO website. These are part of a range of support and enforcement approaches which seeks to improve the level of compliance by small-to-medium enterprises.

The guides seeks to offer an interactive checklist which contains a series of questions and answers, to help small-to-medium enterprises (SME) self assess the effectiveness of their GST governance, risk management, internal assurance processes and procedures against a list of best practice actions. Topic modules include:

  • Governance (processes / risk management);
  • Processing (documentation / reconciliation);
  • Resources and Capabilities (segregation of duties / continuity of business); and
  • Assurance (testing / review).
Both checklists will help:

  • identify GST governance, risk management and assurance processes;
  • determine whether processes follow best practice;
  • help taxpayers to meet GST compliance obligations;
  • identify additional measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of GST compliance failures.
Retention for verification: Activity statement refunds

The ATO has an opportunity to find the right balance regarding the Multiflex decision and the granting of Royal Assent on 27 June 2012.

The Commissioner has the discretion to retain an amount in either of the following situations:
  • If it is reasonable to require verification of information that relates to a refund;
  • The entity has requested that the refund be retained for verification.

The Commissioner must inform the entity of the decision to retain a refund and this can be done in a number of ways including telephone, electronic mail or post.

The ATO is transitioning to a new end-to-end process for refund management including:

  • Striking a balance in decisions about whether or not it is reasonable to retain refunds for verification purposes;
  • Introducing a new suite of risk treatment strategies;
  • Implementing processes which will allow us to better manage case numbers;
  • Improved case identification which means less impact on taxpayers. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) have been developed to assist understanding of the new legislation and our processes and will be available on our website in the near future.

Members requiring any further information in relation to any of the above items should contact us at Tax Policy.